Advanz Pharma calls UK fine for pricing strategy 'quasi-criminal' in appeals court

After sustaining three heavy fines over the last 14 months for alleged anticompetitive practices and price gouging, Advanz Pharma is fighting back.

In appeals court on Tuesday versus the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the London-based company—formerly Concordia Healthcare—called the fine for the pricing of its thyroid medicine “manifestly wrong” and “quasi-criminal.”

The fine, which the government levied in July of last year, was for a combined £100 million ($107 million), the second highest ever assessed by the CMA. While Advanz faces £40.9 million in fines, former private equity owners Hg Capital and Cinven are on the hook for £8.6 million and £51.9 million, respectively.

A CMA investigation found that Advanz raised the price of its liothyronine tablets from £20 (around $29) in 2009 to £248 ($345) in 2017. Advanz’s pricing of the drug, which is used to treat thyroid hormone deficiency, was “excessive and unfair,” the CMA found.

Allowing Advanz to dictate the price of liothyronine tablets was a lack of competition, the government said.

In 2006, the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) spent £600,000 ($834,375) on liothyronine tablets. By 2016, that figure had jumped to £30 million ($41.71 million), leading the drug to be placed on the NHS’s “drop list,” which meant patients were required to pay out of pocket to get liothyronine.

Also in July of last year, Advanz was fined by the CMA along with several other companies—including Auden Mackenzie and Accord UK—for the pricing of generic hydrocortisone tablets. From 2008 to 2016, the price increased by 10,000%.

Then in February of this year, the CMA levied a fine of £35 million ($47 million) on Advanz, Cinven and another private equity partner, Lexon, for the pricing of anti-nausea drug, prochlorperazine. From 2013 to 2017, the price rose from £6.49 to £51.68.